It has been almost twenty years since the US Congress passed the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), which was signed into law in 1998 by then President Bill Clinton. The IRFA inscribed into law and US foreign policy a set of definitions and monitoring protocols, and it mandated the creation of a bureaucracy within the US State Department—the Office of Religious Freedom, which is charged with promoting religious freedom as a core objective of US foreign policy. Under the language and mandate of the IRFA, this office produces yearly reports on religious freedom around the globe, and its work becomes the basis by which the Secretary of State categorizes some countries as “countries of particular concern” for their “particularly severe violations of religious freedom.” Such a designation can trigger various disciplinary and punitive responses by the US government, including economic sanctions. As Elizabeth Shakman Hurd shows through incisive analysis in her recently published Beyond Religious Freedom: The New Global Politics of Religion, the impact of IRFA and other efforts to mobilize a religious freedom framework in international relations is far-reaching, not only in practical terms, but also at the level of defining “religion” itself.Read the rest of Paradoxes of international religious freedom.
Elizabeth A. Castelli
Elizabeth A. Castelli is Ann Whitney Olin Professor and chair of the Religion Department at Barnard College. She is the author of Martyrdom and Memory: Early Christian Culture Making and editor of God and Country (a special issue of differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies). She is the Editorial Director of Marginalia Review of Books, and serves on the boards of the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research.
Posts by Elizabeth A. Castelli:
At its March 2012 meeting, the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty: A Statement on Religious Liberty,” a document drafted by the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.Read the rest of The bishops, the sisters, and religious freedom.